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To open mail for past tenant re unpaid bills?

(28 Posts)
bobs123 Fri 19-Dec-14 09:59:44

The last tenant moved out in February without paying the gas/elec bills. When the reminders started coming in I first forwarded them to the agent. Then I returned them to the power company stating she didn't live here any more Then I opened them and phoned the power company to tell them she didn't live here any more. They said they would sort it out. The bills continued. I phoned again telling them there was no point sending red letters as they were not going to the right person (there was another address on some of the bills which I pointed out). They said they would do a trace to find her correct address. I said I would be binning any further communication from them and checked that the conversation was being recorded.

The reason I am opening her mail is that I am aware that at some point a bailiff could turn up on my doorstep so I need to know when it might happen.

There has been a lot of letters!!!

What else can I do to protect myself? (I am with a different power company - changed as soon as I moved in). It is probably illegal to open her mail but returning it seems to make no difference

Purplepumpkins Fri 19-Dec-14 10:05:23

It's illegal to open Mail not adressed to you. We send any mail not addressed to us back to the post office.

TheListingAttic Fri 19-Dec-14 10:05:57

It's illegal to open someone else's post with malicious intent. Which is very hard to prove, and it's highly unlikely anyone's going to come after you for it, since you are really only trying to get things straight.

We had this once, except by the time we started opening the letters (which had been coming for months, despite us assiduously returning them to sender) they were moderately threatening letters from debt collection agencies - who I rang to explain, and after a few more tries and putting them in touch with the letting agent, we stopped getting them. I honestly don't think you need to worry.

Finola1step Fri 19-Dec-14 10:06:19

Keep returning. Write "Not Known At This Address" on the front. If bailiffs come and try to enter the property which is now under your name, call the police.

PetraDelphiki Fri 19-Dec-14 10:08:54

NO IT ISN'T. It is possibly illegal interfere with the delivery of mail - so to open mail that isn't addressed to your address (ie if the next door neighbour's post has come through your door)...but once it has been delivered to the correct address then it is no longer part of the mail system.

I open everything now addressed to previous owners (4 years here), and the people before (so that would be at least 9 years ago), and people I've never heard of. Anything that looks like a bill I contact the company and tell them they have moved. You absolutely do want to be forewarned if there are bailiffs letters coming - if only so that you have the paperwork handy to prove who you are if they turn up at the door!

Quitelikely Fri 19-Dec-14 10:10:22

How about you just stop caring and expending emotional energy on this.

Ignore the letters. If anyone calls proof of your identity will soon send them on their way.

wowfudge Fri 19-Dec-14 10:24:49

Yep - just right 'no known at the address - return to sender' on anything like that and stick it back in the post box. Even if bailiffs turned up, you aren't the person they are after so there would be no consequence for you.

I've had something similar happen in the past: bought a house that had had tenants in it for 2 years. Rang utility companies as soon as we moved in to open new accounts. Mail started arriving for the former tenants. Returned it all to sender. Then received mail addressed to 'the occupier' so opened it and it was asking if we knew where the former occupiers had gone, etc. We responded (we didn't have any information) and it soon went away. The former tenants of our house hadn't paid a single utility bill in the whole time they lived there.

bobs123 Fri 19-Dec-14 10:27:28

Thanks - some different opinions...
I have emailed the debt collection company - not wasting money on phoning them!
It's not that I care about this - rather that I find it irritating and do not want my DC to have to deal with anyone coming to our door if I am not in.

bobs123 Fri 19-Dec-14 10:30:47

wowfudge I am not returning any more mail as it's a pain and I have done so literally dozens of times already to no avail. And unlike you, phoning the company..twice.. has also made no difference.

It's just annoying angry

onadifferentplanet Fri 19-Dec-14 10:35:57

Speaking from experience you do need to keep on at the companies sending the bills. My situation was a bit different as I had done a house exchange but turned out the previous tenants had not paid their water bills in 15 years and when I changed my bills over a mix up left my details as liable for all of it. Many letters, phone calls and emails were exchanged but it still didn't stop me getting threatening letters and a visit from a very unpleasant bailiff of the pay up or else and then you can sort it with the water company variety. I was lucky as being a HA property I was able to get some assistance from them at negotiating with the bailiffs and the water company but could have been very different if I had had no back up and I know the bailiff visit made me the talk of the street for several weeks afterwards

raltheraffe Fri 19-Dec-14 10:41:03

We live in a house previously rented by someone who did not pay bills. We have a good nosey in their letters.

The leccy company guy came round to check the meter and when I invited him in he said he was cutting off the supply as I owed £600. I showed him my passport and copy of tenancy agreement to prove I was not the debtor and then he just apologised and went away.

CadleCrap Fri 19-Dec-14 10:50:25

We had bailiffs turn up at our door about 2 weeks a after moving in. We just said it wasn't us and they asked for the name of the estate agent we bought through and heard nothing further.

HomeyIDrankTheBeer Fri 19-Dec-14 10:55:43

I moved into a flat which the previous owners had not paid utility bills for. the electric had been disconnected and the only way the company would reconnect was with a key meter, I accepted what they told me on the phone as obviously I just needed to get it working to move in - it was only when I opened some post from the utility company which arrived for the previous occupant, that I realised they were using my payments on the key meter to repay his outstanding electric bill. No wonder my electricity was going down so fast, the meter was set to take something like 40p of every £1 to pay it off! shock took ages to sort it out.

So yes in summary I would absolutely open mail for a previous tenant IF it is concerning a debt relating to the property (utilities, council tax etc). I wouldn't open anything else though. I had bought the flat rather than renting, so passing the mail on to an agent wasn't an option, the previous occupant hadn't left a forwarding address - cant imagine why! hmm some rather interesting sex toy/fetishwear catalogues also came through the post for him for years afterwards grin

VodkaJelly Fri 19-Dec-14 10:59:46

Why on earth would you call the police if a baliff turned up at your door? What on earth does Finola1step think is going to happen? they will turn up mob handed, drop down from a helicopter on ropes, swing through your windows and drop down the chimney?

they are not going to try and enter the house, they knock on the door, you open it, they explain who they are, you tell them you are not tenant and show proof, they go away.

They will only try to enter the house if it has gone to court and they have a warrant, until then they wont try to enter unless you invite them in.

I have had debt collectors at my door several times with regards to a previous tennant, I did what was described as above and they went away and i heard no more.

bobs123 Fri 19-Dec-14 11:19:59

Thanks for all the advice - well prepared now!!!!!

paleviewofhills Fri 19-Dec-14 11:22:38

I've lived in my current flat for six years and still, every week, get mail for the previous tenants. They clearly didn't pay a single bill the whole time they lived here. The obvious junk goes straight in the bin, but I have opened the stuff that looks as if it could be yet more red letters from credit card companies, debt recovery agencies, utilities etc. I then phoned the companies and told them that they are sending to the wrong address, etc. They are usually pretty good at removing the address but some are more persistent than others.

Last year I opened a letter addressed to the guy that lived here, and it turned out to be a PPI cheque. He turned up on the doorstep the next day asking for it! Obviously I gave it to him, but told him that anything else I got would be going straight in the bin. He just shrugged and walked off. I told the letting agency that he was still using this address, but they weren't particularly interested...

wowfudge Fri 19-Dec-14 11:27:53

You misread my post OP. I only rang the utility companies when I moved in, in order to have accounts opened with them under my name at the property address.

All mail not addressed to me or 'the occupier' was returned to sender. Repeatedly. If you don't continue to return it, you could be making a rod for your own back.

Bailiffs have no interest in you when you are not the person they are after.

wowfudge Fri 19-Dec-14 11:28:54

I forgot to say - I fail to see the difference in effort between returning the mail and opening it and emailing the sender. I just wouldn't get involved in correspondence with them at all if it can be avoided.

invisibleperson Fri 19-Dec-14 11:29:11

As another poster has said it's not illegal to open mail addressed to your address but to another person unless it's for malicious intent.

We began receiving letters from a large financial institution but with someone else's name on it. We opened them and phoned company concerned as it looked like perhaps some fraud was perhaps being carried out. The financial institution are now investigating and thanked us for alerting them.

Gudgyx Fri 19-Dec-14 11:33:16

I moved into a new rented property about 3 months ago. We get mail for various people constantly!

The guy who lived in the flat directly before didnt pay a penny in council tax the full time he was here (also disappeared owing loads of rent as well - found this out when we had to ask the agents if they had details to contact him so we could get our sky connected as they wouldnt disconnect his without his consent).

We got a card through the door from a visiting Sheriff's Officer. I googled it, and apparently in Scotland they only make so many visits and chap the door before they have the right to force entry and remove goods to the value of the council tax debt (only happens with council tax, not private debt). So I obviously panicked! OH called the number on the card and left a message saying the guy they were looking for no longer lived there, and to contact our agents for any further info. That was only a few weeks ago and as far as I know they havent been back since, although I am still wary about opening the door to anyone when I'm in alone just in case!

HelpMeGetOutOfHere Fri 19-Dec-14 11:56:03

Just keep returning to sender. I have this, the previous tenants, and recently started getting post for a name that I've never seen before. I have just been writing in marker not known at his address and putting back in the post box.

I'm not sure how it causes much effort on your part. Don't do each one as it arrives, save it until you have a few and post them together.

londonrach Fri 19-Dec-14 12:10:29

Its not illegal to open to post of a previous tenant as long as you are not going do anything bad with the information inside and are opening it to find address. I was advised by the police (i asked at a fair once) to always open red letters or letters to the occupier in case the flat or house had been reclaimed by the mortgage company. Keep either dropping letters at the agent or send back saying unknown at address. Also i would keep a copy of your passport by the front door. Hassle you dont need really.

winterclouds Fri 19-Dec-14 12:13:06

When I last moved I told my energy company and took them with me to my new property.

Unbeknownst to me we owed them money. We payed by direct debit every month but they had been under charging us so we were unaware. They kept sending the final bill to our old address (even though we told them we moved hmm and we're still using them at our new address). We only found out when we received a letter from a debt collection agency.

Maybe the old tenant doesn't know about their debt?

littleducks Fri 19-Dec-14 12:16:39

I called the police when we had balliffs turn up at our house days after moving. I was alone with two small children and they were banging and drilling at the front door (turns out they were holding the drill against the fitr just too scare me but at the time I didn't know that and was scared). I shouted at them that I was calling the police and they immediately stopped and went and stood on the opposite side of the road hmm.

The police checked my details, I could show them letter from agency saying we were just moving in. I didn't want the balliffs taking copies of my ID and the police were able to say they had checked it but not let balls take any copies.

It was a waste of police time and I did feel bad but the policeman said it was the baliffs wasting their time not me and to call immediately if worried by then again.

I did complain about the ballifs but that seemed to be a huge waste of my time. I would be very cautious about dealing with baliffs again.

primarynoodle Fri 19-Dec-14 12:19:23

op this happened to me.. they took my name ao they could update me on the situation.

THEN THE FUCKERS PUT MY NAME ON THE BILL!!!!!!! angry angry angry angry

so I would just give them to the letting agents. if bailiffs come warrant will be issued for that tenant not you so they cant access your property.

as a side note, that company was british gas. fuckers!

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